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Billy Caldwell to return home after cannabis licence granted

Co Tyrone boy Billy Caldwell and his mother hope to return home to Castlederg tonight
Press Association Reporters

CO Tyrone boy Billy Caldwell is to return home today as the Department of Health confirmed he has been granted a licence for medical cannabis.

The 12-year-old and his mother Charlotte are expected to fly into Belfast City Airport late this afternoon.

The boy, who has a rare form of epilepsy, his been receiving treatment in London.

Although Billy and his mother live in Castlederg, the Belfast Trust has been granted an emergency licence to prescribe and administer the child's medication.

A spokesman for the trust said: "Billy’s medication will arrive today and arrangements are in place to administer it this evening and thereafter.

"The Trust has been in contact with Charlotte Caldwell and has discussed these arrangements with her."

The Home Office gave Billy a short-term licence to allow him access to cannabis oil which his mother said helps to control his seizures.

Uncertainty over receiving his medication at home had placed a question mark over his return.

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On Wednesday, the family claimed the Home Office decision needed to be ratified by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland before they could book flights home.

This morning, the family said they have booked flights but remain concerned over when Billy's next dose will be released.

A family spokesman said they are still awaiting confirmation from the department that Billy's medication will be available when they land in Northern Ireland.

"While the Home Office in London and Charlotte's MP Orfhlaith Begley have done an amazing job in getting us this far, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland have not confirmed that Billy's medication will be available, whether for administration at a Belfast hospital, or to be taken home and administered in precisely the way he had previously been given his meds for 19 months before the prescription ban," he said.

"While we have been advised that the captain of our flight will be given secure custody of the original larger quantity of Bill's medicinal cannabis confiscated at Heathrow on June 11, we are also advised that the meds will be handed directly to the Department of Health in Belfast.

"We have also been told that the final four days' supply of Billy's meds, released under special licence by the Home Office on June 16, will not be released from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

"This is a cause of concern, because after the administration of his Thursday morning dose of medicinal cannabis we do not know when the next dose will be released."

The Department of Health said it was trying to get Billy's medicine to the Belfast Trust.

In a statement, it said it had "received an emergency licence application from Belfast Trust clinicians regarding medicinal cannabis use for Billy Caldwell".

"An emergency licence has today been issued by the Department, replicating the licence issued last month by the Home Office for treatment at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

"We have also been in discussions with the Home Office to finalise arrangements for the immediate transportation of Billy’s medicine from London to the Belfast Trust."

West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley has welcomed the Department of Health's decision.

"I have been in regular contact with Billy’s mother Charlotte and the health authorities on both sides of the Irish sea urging them to end the delay in transferring Billy’s medicinal cannabis licence to the north," she said.

"We are still seeking clarity on where Billy will receive his treatment within the north.

"I therefore welcome the announcement that this licence will be administered in the north so that Billy can come home and continue his recovery."

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